Despite surveillance video of a hooded figure setting fire to a Canadian church's door last week, officials said they're uncertain if a blaze just days later at the same church that burned it to the ground was arson, CTV News reported.
What are the details?
Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Surrey, British Columbia, confirmed there was a recent attempted arson at St. George Coptic Orthodox Church, the network said.
Surveillance video of the attempted arson timestamped 2:30 a.m. Wednesday shows a woman approaching the building's front door, lighting it on fire, and then walking away.
Surveillance video provided to @CTVVancouver by one of the church members shows a woman lighting the front door of… https://t.co/AjA1Lx0YPh— Regan Hasegawa (@Regan Hasegawa)1626704558.0
Church members told CTV News the door was damaged, and they had been there working with police to identify the suspect.
Then a massive fire burned St. George church to the ground early Monday morning, the network said — just five days after the attempted arson caught on camera.
Image source: YouTube screenshot
CTV News said flames broke out at the church shortly after 3:30 a.m., and by the time firefighters arrived the building was engulfed in flames, and it was upgraded to a third-alarm fire. No one was hurt, the network added.
Image source: YouTube screenshot
But despite the earlier video, Assistant Chief Shelley Morris of the Surrey Fire Service said the cause of the blaze that destroyed the church is not known.
"We don't know the cause at this time," she told CTV News. "We'll be investigating later today once we fully douse the fire."
Sgt. Elenore Sturko with the Surrey RCMP added to the network that while it's "disturbing that the church has now burnt ... there is no indication that these two incidents are linked." Sturko also told CTV News that "we will be investigating both of these incidents separately."
Church members have a theory
Some in the St. George congregation believe the church was deliberately set on fire.
"I think it's arson, and I think it has probably to do with the burning of churches that's happening around the country, where there is no distinction between one type of church or another type of church," Medhat Elmasry, a church board member, told the network.
Medhat ElmasryImage source: YouTube screenshot
Sturko added to CTV News that the string of recent church fires also is on the minds of police.
"We also are aware that there have been other church fires across British Columbia and other parts of Canada, and we are alive to that," she told the network. "We don't have any information to suggest [it's] related to any of those other incidents at this time, but our officers, and the Surrey Fire Service, are treating this as suspicious at this time."
'It feels really bad'
Elmasry also told CTV News that St. George has been around since the 1990s, and more than 380 families attend.
"It feels really bad, because… it's our life, our churches, our life. We spend a lot of time in our church. And we have a large congregation. So I speak on behalf of my congregation," he noted to the network. "I'm sure we're all heartbroken at the moment."
Elmasry also told CTV that many items inside the church are irreplaceable.
"There are relics of saints that are totally priceless. That must have gone in these flames. You cannot recover those," he told the network, adding that he hopes the culprit is caught.
"My message is: 'What have you achieved? What did you do this for? You targeted a peaceful community, a peaceful church,'" Elmasry told CTV News.
While the church carried insurance, it also was home to a daycare, and now there is concern regarding where the 65 kids who attend will go now, the network said.
Surrey church burned to ground in suspicious fire youtu.be